[ree-kawrs, -kohrs, ri-kawrs, -kohrs]
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  1. access or resort to a person or thing for help or protection: to have recourse to the courts for justice.
  2. a person or thing resorted to for help or protection.
  3. the right to collect from a maker or endorser of a negotiable instrument. The endorser may add the words “without recourse” on the instrument, thereby transferring the instrument without assuming any liability.

Origin of recourse

1350–1400; Middle English recours < Old French < Late Latin recursus, Latin: return, retreat, noun use of past participle of recurrere to run back; see recur Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for recourse


  1. the act of resorting to a person, course of action, etc, in difficulty or danger (esp in the phrase have recourse to)
  2. a person, organization, or course of action that is turned to for help, protection, etc
  3. the right to demand payment, esp from the drawer or endorser of a bill of exchange or other negotiable instrument when the person accepting it fails to pay
  4. without recourse a qualified endorsement on such a negotiable instrument, by which the endorser protects himself or herself from liability to subsequent holders

Word Origin for recourse

C14: from Old French recours, from Late Latin recursus a running back, from re- + currere to run
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for recourse

late 14c., from Old French recours (13c.), from Latin recursus "a return, a retreat," literally "a running back, a going back," from stem of past participle of recurrere "run back, return" (see recur).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper